Posts Tagged With: spinning

I am Runner, Hear Me Roar.

When it comes to our diets, there are a few hard and fast rules that will help just about everyone drop a dress size. You know, like eat more celery and less Cheetos.

But when it comes to the day-to-day decision to break a sweat — because, let’s face it, there is no lasting weight loss without physical activity — I believe that every person is a little different.

For example, I have trouble mustering the energy to exercise in the evenings, while others wouldn’t dream of rolling out of bed at 5:30am to hit the gym. Some people like to tone up with yoga or Pilates, while I prefer to pant through a run or a grueling kickboxing session. While some can push through several hours of strength training at the gym (insane Biggest Loser contenders, I’m looking at you), it may not work for all of us. I’m lucky to be able to carve out 45 minutes for a sweat session 5-6 times a week, and some people get away with far less. And that’s perfectly fine.

That being said, I think there is one workout rule that applies to every single person looking to lose the weight and keep it off. And that is this: you must make fitness a part of your identity. If you want to truly commit to a regular exercise routine, I don’t think you can just pencil in a 30-minute walk four times a week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great start — but I think it takes more than a calendar appointment to make exercise a part of your life.

I strongly believe you need to find something that you love to do. It has to be something you can latch onto strongly enough that you won’t let bad weather or family responsibilities or work schedules or anything else stand in your way. I’ve been known to run in the rain, and have attempted to maneuver my car though six inches of snow to make my Muy Thai kickboxing class.

I recently returned from a vacation (Disney World!) where I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted — ice cream, cookies, cheeseburgers, you name it. While traipsing through theme parks for six days is physically demanding, it was still nothing like my usual running/spinning/kickboxing regimen. So, big surprise here: I returned home to pants that suddenly fit a little more snugly. I was hungry all the time, and feeling way too lethargic to hit the track.

Because of my lack of exercise and unhealthy eating all week, I didn’t feel motivated or energetic…but most surprisingly, I didn’t feel like me.

That’s when I realized how much working out has become part of my identity. It has consumed my life in so many ways that without a daily bout of exercise — even if I miss less than a week — I suddenly start feeling like a completely different person. It’s truly humbling to realize that, before my weight loss, I used to feel this way all the time.

If I were to draft a list of all the qualities that make up who I am, “physically active” would be  right at the top. My being can no longer be summed up by my gender or what I do for a living. I’m also a runner and a purple belt.

I think my overzealousness at the gym in my earliest weeks of weight loss paid off in more ways than a scale could ever show. I quickly became a fixture on that elliptical machine, and it wasn’t long before people started calling me by name…and asking about me when I didn’t show up. That’s when I realized that others saw me as something of a gym rat, and that fueled me with the motivation to get stronger and tougher and fitter. I wanted to live up to that new perception of who I was.

When I started running, at first I considered it nothing more than a fast way to torch as many calories as possible in a short period of time. But it wasn’t long before I got bored with the monotony of pounding a treadmill. When I started looking at running as more than a weight loss technique, that’s when the habit really started to stick. I subscribed to Runner’s World.  I strapped on a Garmin sports watch.  I signed up for 5K races.  Suddenly, I was a “runner.” And now I can’t wait to lace up my Nikes.

I’m often asked to divulge the number of times I work out each week. But an active lifestyle is so much more than the hours you spend on a treadmill. It’s just way too easy to lose interest in working out and return right back to your favorite position on the couch. I should know…I work at a gym.

I tend to shy away from making all-knowing proclamations on this blog, but I truly believe that the only way to make fitness a lasting part of your life is to make it part of who you are.

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Fake it ‘Til You Make It: Running My First 5K

I did it again! After running my first four-miler on the Fourth of July — and proving to myself that I didn’t die or, worse, come in dead last — I finally had the courage to run my first 5K. And, appropriately, it just so happened to be the 10th Annual Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza…meaning there was gooey, cheesy pizza (and cookies!) awaiting us at the finish line. Now if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

Even though this race was a shorter distance than my last, mentally, it proved much tougher than I anticipated. I’ve been putting off registering for a 5K for years now, always assuming that I was still too fat to run a race and that I’d just make a fool of myself amongst the “real” runners. That’s why despite the fact that New Jersey is in the midst of a brutal heat wave, and the sticky 90+ degree temperatures have been making movement of any kind utterly unbearable, I knew this race was something I had to do. I also knew that my running sneakers are in desperate need of replacing — which was evidenced by the blister I earned in mile two — and that I haven’t been running as often since I became addicted to kickboxing and spinning.

In the end, though, it wasn’t the sweat pouring down my face or the stinging pain of a newly-formed blister that I had to overcome: it was myself. I had to once again go head-to-head with the old Jen, who had no qualms about telling me that I couldn’t run a real, official 5K race, and that I didn’t really belong there.

That’s when the mantra that my Muay Thai Kickboxing instructor constantly barks to newbies — “Fake it ’til you make it!” — started running through my mind. Maybe I wouldn’t meet my goal of beating my average 10-minute miles this time (I definitely didn’t), and maybe I didn’t look as good crossing the finish line as some of the more seasoned runners, but with time and training (and some new kicks), I can and will become better and stronger and faster.

I decided right then and there that, for now, I’m going to continue to break the bank on the latest running sneakers and slap on GPS-enabled sports watches and don cute, colorful racerback tanks — and totally fake it.

Last night, when I showed up in my snazzy new running duds, I took a look around at the other runners. Sure, there were a handful of men and women with ripped runners’ bodies who looked as though they escaped the womb wearing Nike Airs. But then there were the children and the senior citizens. There were runners who were tall and lanky, and ones who were short and stocky. There were runners wearing knee braces, and mothers pushing baby carriages. And suddenly I found myself peering down at my own body, which despite its blatant faults (ahem, batwings) has gotten pretty strong and muscular in the last three years…and realized that I fit right in.

I forced myself to remember that I’ve worked hard for this moment, and I that I had every right to revel in the joy of crossing that finish line. I truly believe as though I’ve been given a second chance on life, and running a 5K is just one way to celebrate the new me and the kind of future I never thought possible.

This thought wasn’t lost to me as I pounded the pavement amongst thousands of runners and realized that I never, ever thought I could be an athlete. Yet there I was, a former obese woman whose idea of exercise was once racing into the kitchen to sneak another sleeve of Thin Mints, and I was keeping pace with people who have been working out and pushing their bodies to accomplish incredible feats for most of their lives.

Of course there are still the little things that wreak havoc on my self-confidence, like the loose skin on my inner thighs slapping together in my running shorts, or the fact that I only managed to eke out painfully slow 11-minute miles for a finishing time of 33:03.

But as long as I never lose sight of the journey I’ve had, and keep upholding my commitment to live a healthy, active life — by signing up for more races! — I’m confident that someday I won’t have to fake being a runner. I’ll just be one.

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Worthy of Weight Loss

Anyone who has ever carried around more than, say, five or 10 extra pounds knows that years of hiding behind excess weight can take a huge toll on your psyche. Tune in for just one episode of The Biggest Loser and it becomes abundantly clear that there’s a reason why these folks have ballooned to twice or even triple the size they should be…and it’s not because they simply have a larger appetite or slower metabolism than the average person.

It’s because there’s an endless list of emotional issues that go hand-in-hand with gaining and losing significant amounts of weight, and this week I think I may have just uncovered one of mine.

In my first year on Weight Watchers, I shed 80 pounds. Just like that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy — I followed the program religiously and worked out at least five times a week — but the weight was falling off my body and I was enjoying the ride. I was basking in the compliments and delighting in smaller, cuter clothes, and it seemed like everything in my new healthy, active life was falling into place.

But then in my second year on the program, everything stopped working. The scale stopped moving, I became bored with my go-to meals, and there were days when heading to the gym was just another ho-hum chore on my To-Do. As my weight first began to plateau, all of the emotional issues that had fallen by the wayside in my first exciting, life-changing year of weight loss starting to resurface.  My old fears and insecurities came flooding back, and I knew there had to be reason I hit a wall the second my mind started playing catch-up with all the physical changes to my body.

I don’t feel worthy of success.

And, more specifically, I don’t feel worthy of weight loss.

My self-deprecating thoughts don’t end there. I don’t believe I’m good enough, talented enough, or smart enough to build a lucrative career, and I still, after nine years with my boyfriend, don’t feel worthy of his love. I know it’s ridiculous, but these nagging feelings of inadequacy are a side effect of 20 years of being the fat girl hiding in the corner, trying to remain unnoticed and genuinely believing that I wasn’t as good as everyone else.

I was fat, and they were not. They deserved happiness, and I did not.

But no more. I’m tired of brushing off compliments and assuming I’m not good enough to do anything. Being my own worst enemy has become absolutely exhausting, and frankly, I’m tired of finding new ways to make myself feel inadequate.

In the last couple of months, something has changed. I have a newfound motivation and commitment to finally achieve my personal weight loss goal (100 pounds) and start landing assignments in my favorite magazines, and the best part is that I am finally acknowledging just how hard I work, just how far I’ve come, and just how much I deserve to succeed.

Every time a negative thought creeps in — I won’t be able to finish my first 5K, I’m not talented enough to write for newsstand magazines — I’m making the conscious decision to ignore it. If I can make the effort to live a healthy lifestyle, then surely I can make the effort to tell myself when I’m being stupid.

I credit all of this with the fact that the scale is moving again. Well, that, and the fact that I am officially in love with PointsPlus!  I’m averaging a little less than a pound per week, and as of last weekend’s weigh-in, I am just shy of once again being within 10 pounds of my goal. The last time I reached this point, I ended up gaining about eight pounds back…and then gaining and losing those eight pounds over and over again for a year.  The time before that, the same thing happened.  I get thisclose to my goal, realize just how close I am to — gasp! — actually being successful, and immediately let my efforts start slipping.

Clearly I am more than capable of losing weight, and I’ve come this far already…so it’s pretty obvious that there has been something else standing in the way of losing the last 10 pounds.

And I think her name is Jennifer Nelson.

Whatever your goal is — lose 20 pounds, fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans, run a 5K, or finally try that Zumba or Spinning class — you have to realize that it’s going to be hard work. I know everyone’s looking for shortcuts and instant gratification these days, but unfortunately, when it comes to your health and physical fitness (or anything else for that matter), there is just no such thing as a quick fix.

But guess what? You are worth the effort.

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